- The Fair Work Commission has raised the minimum wage by 5.2% and with it the modern award minimum wage by 4.6%.
- The rise to the modern award minimum wage will lift the wages of some aged care by about $40 a week.
- A separate decision to lift aged care wages across the board by 25% is still pending.
A key part of the ongoing crisis in aged care is the poor pay and conditions of aged care staff. This directly affects older Australians needing access to care at home or in residential care, by discouraging people from working in aged care.
While much of the focus of the recent Fair Work decision has been on the change to the minimum wage, it is important to note the decision also includes a change to minimum awards that affect some aged care staff.
The decision by the Fair Work Commission will mean that full-time aged care workers on the modern award minimum wage will receive a 4.6% increase of $40 more a week. This equates to an increase to $22.88 an hour for people subject to the modern award. The increase of the modern award will not affect all aged care workers, and only impacts the following workers:
- Home care workers on level one
- Aged care workers on level one or two
- Nursing assistants (in years one to three) and enrolled student nurses.
However, those who are receiving above the modern award minimum wage rate of $869.60 a week will also receive a 4.6 percent adjustment. This will affect:
- Home care workers on levels two to five
- Aged care workers on levels three to seven
- Nurses (including experienced nursing assistants, registered nurses, nurse practitioners and occupational health nurses).
In making the change, the Fair Work Commission referred to the "sharp rise" in living costs with inflation rising to 5.1 percent.
How aged care providers will fund the increased wage bill has yet to be seen. However, seniors and their families should brace themselves for possible fee increases.
The increase to the minimum wage and modern award minimum wage on 1 July 2022 is not related to the existing case before the Fair Work Commission. This case seeks to attain an increase in the wages of home care and residential care workers of 25 percent.
The need to apply for an increase aged care worker wages via the Fair Work Commission was flagged as a recommendation in the final report from the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese made a commitment at the last election to support and fund the outcome of the Fair Work Commission case. The new Minister for Aged Care, Anika Wells, has written to the Fair Work Commission asking for a deal to make a submission to the case, which is now expected to conclude in early 2023.
Aside from increasing the pay of workers, there are other things that can be done to help attract and retain quality staff in aged care.
National Seniors has been advocating for a national Mature-Age Home Care Traineeship Scheme to attract new home care workers to the sector.
This is based on a highly successful trial in South Australia where mature-age workers were trained to work for provider My Care Solution.
Another policy to retain staff is to Let Pensioners Work to remove the financial barrier posed by our tough Age Pension means test rules which strip 50 cents in the dollar from the pension when people work more than about one day a week. You can help support this campaign by signing the Let Pensioners Work petition.